Humankind May 2021 hands-on preview: Eras, late games, & balance throughout

We once again dove into the latest build of Humankind to check out how religion, diplomacy, and late game eras are shaping up.


For quite some time now, Endless Legend and Endless Space developers Amplitude Studios have been hard at work on its latest 4X game, the evolutionary human culture strategy Humankind. The studio is finally approaching its finish line for a 1.0 release this coming August, but it still has plenty to share with players ahead of the launch date. I recently got to sit down with another early build of Humankind, this time featuring major mechanics like religion, multi-civilization diplomacy, and much later era gameplay. For my experience, the game is shaping up even stronger and more adaptive than even my last time with it.

How about less swords, more words?

I enjoy diplomacy and negotiations in my 4X. I usually shy away from the more militaristic factions and try to gain the resources that will ensure people will want me as a friend. To this end, I was excited to see diplomacy make the cut in this latest Humankind build. I will say it appears to play out like you might expect from diplomacy in a human civilization 4X game, though the more aggressive attitudes may be a bit rough.

If you remember my last preview with Humankind, you work to evolve your culture from a primitive Neolithic Era state into that of an actual group of people. The historic group you choose, be they Egyptian, Zhou, Babylonian, and other groups will determine what bonus units, buildings, and traits your culture has, be it farming, production, science, military might, culture, or trade. For this particular engagement, I chose the Phoenicians, who were focused on trade and merchantry with a particular leaning towards coastal settlements.

My goal was to quickly build my way up to a small coastal empire with control of various map resources and luxuries to bolster the allure of trade with me. To that end, I gained my small empire quickly, building my goldflow and often buying up the production cost of buildings as opposed to waiting remaining turns for them. I quickly found myself neighbored and threatened by a close militaristic force who saw me as weak, but I closed the gap on danger by making contact with other nations and partaking quickly in trade. Through this, I was able to gain their favor and form alliances. You don’t want the culture supplying you with horses and spices to burn down, after all. By the time my neighbor became a bully, they weren’t just messing with me; they were also messing with everyone I supplied.

I really enjoyed seeing this style of gameplay become more possible and realized in my efforts to play to my mercantile tastes, though I will say I feel the militaristic cultures are still a bit too aggressive and dismissive in politics if they see your armies as weaker. It can feel like a race against time to get your ally network in gear against a meaner nation. Even so, moving far forward into some late gameplay gave me a look at the kind of networking, alliances, and warfare you can put together if you survive long enough. As a militaristic Mediterranean culture that evolved towards Japanese, bringing culture boosts into the mix, I found myself on the attack with my allies against another alliance of nations. It became an interesting mix of expanding my era advancement at home and on the battlefield abroad and making sure I didn’t spread myself too thin in either place.

May I interest you in one true deity I’ve crafted?

Further along my new trails in this Humankind preview was a clash and adaptation of religion. Again, much like elsewhere, by adopting and growing religion, you can gain benefits in your own backyard from followers, as well as from other nations by influencing neighboring settlements to your ways. As a mercantile nation, I focused less on this aspect, but I most certainly saw it in action. By the time I adopted a religion, other stronger faiths were already established. More than that, much like picking a culture, picking your religion allows you to specialize even further in unique traits. You can gain bonuses to food, culture, military might, trade, even stronger religious pressure inside and outside your nation, and more.

I could also feel the presence of religious tension despite the fact that I was not heavily invested in it. My neighbor was heavily invested in religion and their pressure spread throughout my citizenry to the point where my own late-blooming beliefs were basically fringe among my people. You can make decisions inside your nation and through diplomacy with other nations that attempt to invite, strengthen, or subdue religions, and, much like resources themselves, it can make for a source of friendship or tension among your culture and others.

It’s pretty easy to see where this is going to be big for cultures more attuned to faith and how it’s going to affect diplomacy in the game, though, I wasn’t able to see religion specific units like Missionaries or Inquisitors during my time with it. I’m curious to see if religious influence expands from settlement choices and diplomacy to deployable units.

The shape and route of humanity

It won’t be too much longer before we finally come to the complete launch day of Humankind and as my second time dipping into what Amplitude has in store for us, my excitement continues to build for the game. It has many flavors that should entice Civilization, as well as players of previous Amplitude games like Endless Legend and Endless Space, but it also continues to set itself apart in some very interesting ways. For a more passive player, I was really happy to see the application of diplomacy and religion in this build, and the peek at a late era was a nice taste of what it will feel like when you’re deep into a game. With that in mind, it seems like Humankind is making August 2021 quite the month to watch for the 4X gaming genre.

This preview is based on an early PC build of the game supplied by the publisher. Humankind is slated for release on August 17, 2021 on Google Stadia and PC via Steam and Epic Games Store.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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